The furor caused by the boycott imposed on Haaretz by the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club continues: Many people have come out against the team’s management, including the Journalists’ Organization and Meretz MK Esawi Freige.
“We were astonished to learn that a veteran soccer club like Beitar Jerusalem is excluding Haaretz sports correspondents from its press section at the stadium,” said a letter from the Journalists’ Organization to Beitar.
“The correspondence that’s come to light presents an objectionable situation according to which spokesman Oshri Dudai has decided to discriminate against the newspaper’s correspondents following a series of articles it ran, which described how no Arab players are on the team. We view with great gravity the discrimination in allocating public resources, in an attempt to ‘send a message’ to the newspaper, seeing it as insulting to journalists and the public in whose name they are working.”
Freige, who heads the sports lobby in the Knesset, sent a letter to Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev: “The club’s decision to take revenge against the media is a serious blow to freedom of the press and is unacceptable in a democratic society,” he wrote.
“Beitar Jerusalem is publicly funded by the municipality, the national lottery and the Israel Broadcasting Authority. It’s home games take place at a stadium owned by the city. It is therefore incumbent upon the club to act fairly and without wrongful discrimination. This is muzzling in its most base and benighted form.”
The most interesting reaction actually came from Dudai himself, who said that Mizrahi Jews are Arabs to all intents and purposes, hence the club is not racist or discriminatory.
“If we talk about facts – we not only had an Arab player but there is also an Arab owner,” he said in a radio interview. “Being Arab refers to a geographic origin, not to a community. It’s not a question of religion. There are Christian Arabs, Muslim Arabs and Jewish Arabs. Our owner is of Yemenite origin. Yemen, as far as I remember, is at the bottom of the Arab peninsula, making him an Arab in fact. We’ve also had at least four Muslim players before.
“Haaretz won’t let facts get in their way,” continued Dudai. “Haaretz is a corpse that is being forcefully ventilated by some Ashkenazi elite, sitting in an ivory tower in central Israel while trying to resuscitate this corpse, each time with a different provocation. This may infuriate us, but it doesn’t impact us. We unequivocally don’t care if we’re not covered by Haaretz.”
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